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I watched "Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair" again yesterday, as I do every year at fair time. Do not expect a profound masterpiece here; the humor is corny and some of the jokes are telegraphed, but you will laugh your head off anyway. Pa thinks up several ways to earn money to help his daughter, Rosie, with her college expenses. Probably the funniest is when he gets the bright idea to apply for unemployment. Rosie reminds her pa that one has to have worked before one can get unemployment. Apparently the only work Pa has ever done is to sire his brood of 14 children ha. The broken-down old mare that Pa has been tricked into "purchasing" has a secret that turns her into a real terror, and here we find one of those "telegraphed" jokes. "Emma" runs away with Ma at the reins, and they charge across a plowed field straight toward a scarecrow. You will just know what is going to happen, but I just about collapse in gales of laughter when it does--twice! The writers of this series used similar situations more than once, such as in one where the farm animals get into the moonshine, and, in this case, when a couple of crows pick at Ma's cement-baked loaves of bread and the obvious happens here, too! "Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair" is a worthy member in the series, so just settle back and enjoy the yuks!
The Ma and Pa Kettle series was very consistent for its first three
movies after the characters were introduced in The Egg and I. This
fourth entry in the series is a departure from the rest, but just as
good as its predecessors.
Oldest son Tom is mentioned briefly, but no longer part of the story. The gags about the Kettles' old and new houses were discarded. Birdie Hicks returns as Ma's biggest rival for prizes at the fair. Introduced to the series is daughter Rosie, played by Lori Nelson.
Rosie hopes to go to college, but the family cannot afford to send her. That starts Pa thinking of ways to raise money, and in the process brings up new trouble and a new adventure. Eventually everything hinges on Pa winning a harness race with a horse that is past her prime as a trotter.
Even if it were not known that Director Charles Barton and some of the writers had worked with Abbott and Costello, the change in the feel of the jokes is obvious. Crowbar and Geoduck definitely play a scene that has A&C written all over it, and even make reference to them. Ma and Pa even change a little bit. In the previous movies Ma was grounded as a real person with some depth to her character. There is only one good, but brief, scene in which Ma shows some sincere feelings with Rosie as they talk about Pa. The majority of the time they are on screen, Ma and Pa are purely there for comedy. Near the end of the movie Ma makes a decision that again shows her to be a conscientious and caring person, but that is quickly followed by even more comedy.
After five movies together, Ma and Pa were going strong without a slump.
In only her second role, we see 19 year old Lori Nelson as the oldest Kettle child "Rosie". The film opens with Pa Kettle trying on the dress that Ma Kettle is "fixin" for Rosie's graduation. This chapter of the Kettles is directed by Charles Barton, who had also directed several Abbott & Costello and the "Peppers" series of films. At one point, the Native Americans (who appear in all the Kettle films) even say "Who are you, Abbott & Costello?" Keep an eye out for James Best as "Marvin Johnson".. he was the sheriff on the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV series. In this one, Pa is sure he can solve all their money troubles if Ma wins the big prize for her crab apple plum jam... they need to raise money for Rosie to go to college. Another money-making scheme Pa tries is to get their tired, old horse to win a race at the county fair. Somehow this episode of the "Kettles" doesn't measure up to the first couple..I guess that happens with most sequels. There would be five more chapters of the Kettles, but it seems like they were milking the premise for all the easy money they could get out of it. As they continued making the films, note that more of the original actors started dropping out. As usual, Marjorie Main carries the show with her down-home blustery, whoopin' and hollerin' and bossing Pa around.
The Frakes of Iowa and the Kettles of the Ozarks have a lot in common.
Every member of the Frake family has a betting interest in State Fair
in some event at the fair and the Kettles are heavy into gambling at a
few events in their county fair. Between Percy Kilbride's horse race
and Marjorie Main's cooking they're heavily invested.
There's a sudden need for money in the Kettle household as oldest daughter Lori Nelson wants to go to college. Of course a lot of family problems would be solved if Kilbride would just get a job. But he wouldn't be Pa Kettle then.
Marjorie Main's rival Esther Dale is also spouting off and saying she'll rub Ma's nose in it again. Of course Kettle resourcefulness and luck triumph in the end. Did you think it wouldn't.
This one's good entry in the Kettle series, nice story, nice people and a bit of a surprise from one of the regulars in the Kettle series.
I have seen most of the Ma & Pa Kettle films and so I can see that
compared to the earlier films, "Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair" is a
sub-par entry into the series. It's not terrible....but it's also not
particularly good. Much of this is because the jobs seemed much more
limp than usual--especially Pa's American Indian friends.
As usual, Pa Kettle is scheming and spends most of the film trying to manipulate folks into giving him money. He COULD use all this energy getting a job, but this IS Pa Kettle! However, again and again, his schemes seem to backfire--and end up costing Ma the Jelly and Jam contest as well as the bread baking contest at the fair. Can Pa finally redeem himself at the big horse race at the end of the fair? Maybe...and maybe not.
This film is pretty much what you'd expect from a film in the series, although the oldest son (Richard Long) is no where to be seen and the little Kettles only make a couple brief token appearances. As I mentioned above, the Indian sidekicks are a minor issue. They are more important to the film and their charm wears thin after a bit. Inoffensive but also very, very slight overall.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ma wants to break into a chorus of "Bye Bye Birdie" as she goes up
against her arch rival Birdie Hicks (Esther Dale) in three different
competitions at the annual shindig. Her jelly soothes the belly; Her
bread will thrill your head; and her horse is fast, of course. That's
if you make rattle snake sounds to get it going. Pa, of course, still
owes money to everyone in town, and gives half of ma's bread winnings
to two of his debtors. But desperate to get daughter Lori Nelson into
college, Ma and Pa count on winning the horse race. Marjorie Main and
Percy Kilbride are back in another amusing entry in this series spun
off from "The Egg and I".
Good hearted and simple, this entry into the series is a realistic portrayal of annual county fairs, a part of country life that reminds us of what traditions country folks came to depend on not only for their bread and butter, entertainment, sport and social, but to guide their children to appreciating a life with more wholesome values. Main and Dale exchange some good one-liners, although Dale does get to instill some humanity into her seemingly sour old maid.
Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride in "Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair" have
suddenly acquired an attractive, well-spoken college-bound daughter,
with the arrival of pretty blonde Lori Nelson (as Rosie Kettle). She
and handsome boyfriend James Best (as Marvin Johnson) are obviously
cast as replacements for eldest son "Tom" and wife "Kim" (who have
moved to another town). To raise money for their sprouted daughter's
education, "Ma" wants to enter her jam in the annual "Cape Flattery
County Fair" contest. But, in a mix-up, she enters her name in a
horse-racing event. Now, "Pa" must get tired old "Emma" ready to race.
This unusually routine "Ma and Pa Kettle" film series entry has none of the satirical culture clashing situations which made the earlier films so funny, though there are a few good gags. Also notably absent are the brood of wild, rambunctious children; herein, they've been practically tamed. The "childrun" we were previously advised to "beware of" now turn off the television and go to bed when asked, and sweetly sing "Bringing in the Sheaves" in church. One of the film's best bits is how the Kettle kids drop coins in the church collection plate; it almost serves as a protest against the script, which offers only a little fun.
***** Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair (7/11/52) Charles Barton ~ Marjorie Main, Percy Kilbride, Lori Nelson, James Best
I grew up in a harness racing family. We spent summers racing at county fairs in the northeast. It seems that often harness racing doesn't get nearly the attention and credit that thoroughbred racing gets. And yet, harness racing is where it all started in this country. A true American Breed for a true American Sport. Thanks Ma and Pa Kettle for keeping harness racing in the public's eye; at least during the few times a year this film is broadcast.
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